Title: The Mystery of the Three Orchids (Commissario De Vincenzi #12)
Author: Augusto De Angelis (translated by Jill Foulston)
Genre: Fiction (mystery/crime)
Release Date: 8th August, 2016 (first published in 1942)
“Death is in the air at one of Milan’s great fashion houses. As a new collection is unveiled, and the wealthy rub shoulders with the glamorous, owner Cristiana O’Brian escapes upstairs to discover the strangled body of her servant slumped on her bed – a single orchid by his side.
When Inspector De Vincenzi is called in to investigate, the brilliant detective is puzzled; why is Cristiana behaving so suspiciously? And what is her estranged ex husband doing there? As two further corpses appear, each accompanied by an orchid, De Vincenzi must see through dirty tricks and slippery clues in order to uncover the real killer.
Augusto De Angelis’s notorious sleuth returns in a cryptic murder mystery teeming with blackmail, deceit and revenge.” (Pushkin Press)
This is the third book in the ‘Inspector De Vincenzi’ series that I’ve read (the others were The Murdered Banker and The Hotel of Three Roses). As with those other books, The Mystery of the Three Orchids is a fast paced crime thriller, with a plethora of potential killers and not a lot of character building; what we do learn about the characters is the bare minimum to enable us to determine whether or not they’re the perpetrator of the crime. If you like your detective novels to be a slow burn, then this isn’t the series for you. The reader is immediately thrown into the action – there is no slow build up – the detective arrives within pages and immediately gets to work with very little rest.
The Mystery of the Three Orchids has probably been my least favourite of the series so far. That’s not to say it was bad or unenjoyable, but in comparison to the others I’ve read, I just had a less good time reading it. In the last two books, I’ve been stumped on who the killer was almost to the last pages; the clues that De Angelis left strewn throughout them weren’t overly obvious, and neither were the motives for the respective crimes. The opposite was true this time around, and I pieced it all together quite easily.
I also felt this instalment was a bit negative towards women, there being several instances in which women were portrayed as being little more than devious liars. It’s not something that I’ve noticed in the previous books and while it made me laugh more than anything else, it seemed strange to me to repeat the same thing over and over again. I came to the conclusion that maybe the author was having love troubles at the time, and allowed some of that to creep into his work.
Although I believe there are better books in this series, in the end I got what I expected: a fast paced crime novel that reaches its conclusion in a fairly short space of time (you could easily sit and devour one of these books in an afternoon). While I do enjoy taking my time with crime novels, sometimes I just need to know who the killer is and I don’t want to have to wade through pages of superfluous plot to find out and these books meet that need perfectly.